Thursday, August 31, 2023

The Diminished Arc of Ginny Weasley

 Victoria Pedraza | 8/15/2023

"The thing about growing up with Fred and George is that you sort of start thinking anything's possible if you've got enough nerve."


Ginny Weasley in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (book 5)


https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:DALL%C2%B7E_2023-04-10_22.29.47_-_art_of_how_ginny_weasley_should_look_like_based_on_the_books.png

Whenever you’re adapting a book into a movie, or TV series, there are things left behind. It’s a bit sad for the book's fans, but, understandably, a screen adaptation has some time constraints that a book doesn’t. One of the victims of Harry Potter’s screen adaptation was Ginny Weasley, or rather, anything that was interesting about her in the books. 


Ginny was portrayed by British access Bonnie Wright, but my intention here isn’t to critique her performance, I don’t think there was enough to work with for her to give a decent performance, So the fault must lie with the screenwriters.


It’s not surprising, Ginny was very much a side character for much of the series. She’s barely present in books one through four, and book seven was more focused on the three main characters. We only really get to know Ginny in books five and six. From the screenwriters' point of view, she didn’t require much development, so when she did become Harry’s love interest, the viewers barely knew her and the screenwriters had no time to develop her character. As a fan of the books, this is a tragic loss.


Ginny in the Books

Ginny Weasley was a force to be reckoned with. She is the youngest of seven siblings, and the only girl. We meet her as a shy ten and eleven-year-old, who was in awe of her older brother’s best friend, Harry Potter. She blushes whenever he talks to her, puts her elbow into the butter dish accidentally, or sends him embarrassingly corny poems for Valentine’s Day. She has a crush, but she’s young and doesn’t know how to handle it.


As she grows older, we, along with Harry, get the chance to see her personality and her interests. She’s funny, witty, and brave. She loves Quidditch and, when her brothers wouldn’t let her play because she’s a girl, she taught herself by stealing her brothers’ broomsticks when they weren’t looking to practice with them. She’s compassionate, an animal lover, open-minded, protective of her friends, and nonjudgmental. She’s also a talented witch, becoming a bit of a legend for her signature Bat Bogey Hex. 


In the books, by the time Harry starts having feelings for her, it makes total sense. She’s exactly his type, the only other girl he ever liked in school was Cho Chang, also a Quidditch player and an intelligent person (Cho does appear in the movies, but just barely, and they never mention anything relevant about her). She’s one of the few people, other than his two closest friends, who doesn't hesitate to put him in his place and put things in perspective. She’s fiercely independent, determined, courageous, and witty, in short, she’s exactly the type of person Harry generally surrounds himself with.


Ginny in the Movies

In the movies, they only tried to develop her character in the sixth movie, when she becomes Harry’s love interest. Before that, she was nothing but Ron’s little sister. By the time they try to show some of her character traits, it rings hollow, it feels forced. At this point, we’ve known her for, arguably, four movies, during which she had next to no personality, so not only does her personality come off as fake, but her relationship with Harry comes completely out of the blue. We haven’t seen them become friends, we haven’t seen them bond at all. It’s more like she’s trying to insert herself with her brother’s friends all of a sudden, and the audience is left wondering why? We don’t root for her, either as a love interest or as an independent character, because we don’t know her.


The Weasley family in general is done a disservice in the movies. But, going off the books, Ginny is a combination of all their best traits. She’s as reasonable and competent as her father, as fierce as her mother, and from her bothers, in order of age, she’s powerful like Bill, a good Quidditch player like Charlie, clever like Percy, irreverent like Fred and George, and loyal like Ron. This is relevant because the Weasley, especially the four youngest and the parents, are the closest thing Harry has to a family. He loves them.


From Survivor to Warrior

"The diary," said Riddle. "My diary. Little Ginny's been writing in it for months and months, telling me all her pitiful worries and woes- how her brothers tease her, how she had come to school with secondhand robes and books, how"- Riddle's eyes glinted- "how she didn't think famous, good, great Harry Potter would ever like her..."

All the time he spoke, Riddle's eyes never left Harry's face. There was an almost hungry look in them.

"It's very boring, having to listen to the silly little troubles of an eleven-year-old girl," he went on. "But I was patient. I wrote back. I was sympathetic, I was kind. Ginny simply loved me. No one's ever understood me like you, Tom... I'm so glad I've got this diary to confide in.... It's like having a friend I can carry around in my pocket...."

Riddle laughed, a high, cold laugh that didn't suit him.


Excerpt from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (book 2)


The first movie where Ginny plays a real part in the plot is the second one. She’s possessed by Tom Riddle and emotionally manipulated into opening the Chamber and terrorizing the school. No surprise, she was traumatized. Fast-forward six years, and sixteen-year-old Ginny has not only overcome Riddle, she had thrived. The following excerpt takes place during The Battle of Hogwarts, Ginny has been ordered to hide.


""Ginny," said Harry, "I'm sorry, but we need you to leave too. Just for a bit. Then you can come back in. "Ginny looked simply delighted to leave her sanctuary. "And then you can come back in!" he shouted after her as she ran up the steps after Tonks. "You've got to come back in!" … Even as he watched, Ginny sent a well-aimed jinx into a crowd of fighters below.


Excerpt from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows (book 7)


She’s still young, and people around her, including Harry, are trying their hardest to keep her from the war. But she’s determined and refuses not to be a part of the final battle. It’s only natural, every member of her family is fighting, and one of her brothers dies during this battle, this is the war that’s changed everything about her life. Of course, she doesn’t want to stay where she is told.


Takeaway

The sad part of Ginny’s diminished character arc in the movies is that the average moviegoer, who didn’t read the books, is left with a watered-down, completely forgettable version of a wonderful character. She’s not important because she’s Ron’s sister or Harry’s girlfriend. She’s important because she makes herself important. Our main characters depend on her, and she rises to the occasion.


There will be an HBO Harry Potter series in 2025 or 2026. So far, we know almost nothing about it, but hopefully, they will do right by Ginny Weasley's character. They won’t have the excuse of not knowing where the story goes, and they’ll have more time to properly develop the characters. Maybe at that point, I’ll revisit the topic and find that the screen brings fearless Ginny to life. If not, I’ll be a lot harsher on them, especially since I won’t have an emotional connection to the TV series, the way I do with the movies.


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